The EU risks being besieged by a racist mentality "that emulates the fascist methods of the 1930s," said Turkish EU Affairs Minister Egemen Ba???, speaking at a Holocaust commemoration event in Auschwitz.
Speaking on Tuesday (1 February), Ba??? said that the only remedy for what he called Europe's "distorted mentality" was Turkey's accession to the EU.
"The EU, founded in order to eliminate the threats of that period to peace, is today under the risk of being overtaken by a racist mentality that cannot internalise its own values and emulates the fascist methods of 1930s," Ba??? stated in a speech, according to an official transcript released by his services.
"Unfortunately today Turkey and the Turkish people in Europe bear the consequences of being different […] Turkish people, implicitly or openly, are being told this: 'You are different and you have no place among us'."
"Those who have racist and distorted mentalities have no right to degrade democracy and the philosophy of the European Union," he went on.
"The best response to these people would be to support and adopt the values of the European Union and principles of democracy more. The only remedy for this distorted mentality is Turkey's accession to the EU," Ba??? concluded.
Talks at a dead-end
The strong-worded message comes as Turkey's EU accession talks stand practically frozen as a result of Ankara's unwillingness to open its ports and airports to vessels and aircrafts from EU member Cyprus.
Moreover, Turkey appears to be drifting away from the perspective of achieving visa-free travel for its citizens in the EU's borderless Schengen area. Recently, Turkey has been building its own visa-free area by establishing a visa-free regime with countries such as Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia. In the context of the domino nature revolutions in the Mediterranean, immigration pressure of people across the region coming via Turkey into the EU is likely to increase, experts say.
EURACTIV asked various Turkish interlocutors to react to the European affairs minister's statements. The only answer received so far is from Kader Sevinç, the representative to the EU of the country's largest opposition party, CHP.
Sevinç labelled the statement by Ba??? "superficial". She recognised that the credibility of European democracy in the world was to some extent being undermined by increased xenophobia and extremist political positions in some EU member states.
"However, we should not generalise these destructive trends in European politics. We are confident that Europe will overcome the present difficulties and prove once more the universal value of its democracy. This is why a majority of the member states and wide political circles in each EU member country support Turkish membership on the basis of rational arguments. The world needs Europe's democratic leadership," Sevinç stated.
EURACTIV also asked the European Commission to comment. The EU executive said it would first need to check that the quotes by Ba??? were correct.
Other options for Ankara?
Speaking to EURACTIV earlier in an interview, Ba??? said that EU membership was a "very important anchor" for Turkey, but added that it was not Ankara's only option.
Turkish high representatives argue that their country has a lot to offer the EU and would in fact relieve the Union of some of its burdens, instead of bringing additional ones.
Among the advantages that Turkey could bring to Western Europe, they mention the demographic factor but also the country's healthy economic growth.